Guatapé: More than a Day Trip

Once a rural farming community home to only cowboys and their cattle. Now Guatapé streets are filled with far more tourists than locals. Partially, due to it’s close proximity to Medellin. But mostly, because of the famous colorful streets and stunning natural beauty, this Pueblo has to offer.

Most travelers make it here on a day trip from nearby Medellin. But the trick to loving Guatapé is to stay overnight.

Extending your stay allows you to work around the tourists. You can see the colorful streets empty, aside from the street dogs. Or climb the Penõl and not fight for a view of the scenery below. You can watch the evening streets fill with locals.

Even with just one night in Guatapé, you can experience so much more than the average tourist.

Guatapé

Getting there

Without a tour, you’ll have to take a bus on your own. But Medellin public transit couldn’t be easier.

  • Take the Metro to the Caribe station. Across the street is the North Bus Terminal.
  • Counter 9 & 14 both sell bus tickets to La Piedra for 14,000 COP.
  • Buses run throughout the daytime but the earlier you arrive the better.

We arrived at around 3:30. So after finding accommodation near the town square, we headed straight for the Penõl.

Climbing the Penõl

Tuk-Tuks line-up to drive tourists to the Penõl. You’ll find them all over town and congregating near the bus stop you arrive at. Prices are set at 12.000 COP.

The landscape here is dramatic. Skyscraper high rock karsts surrounded by deep blue reservoir lakes and red clay earth. And there is no better vantage point than La Piedra del Penõl. 750 steps coil around the tallest rock formation sitting at 200m high.

Guatapé

The key is picking the right time to visit.

We arrived at around 4 pm. The perfect time. The last of the tour groups had just gone home. Which left the climb relatively empty. It’s best to take the climb slow due to the elevation. When you reach the peak you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the sprawling landscape far below. Vendors sell beer, sliced mango, and other traditional snacks.

To reach the highest platform you will need to enter the gift shop and find the stairs in the back.

The views here are incredible. And absolutely shouldn’t be missed.

  • Another option would be to make the climb early in the morning for sunrise. Before the tours arrive.

The Pueblo

The streets of Guatapé were colorful long before the tourists starting flocking. It isn’t uncommon to see colorful homes and storefronts dotting the streets of Central and South America. But the colorful story-telling panels called “Zocalos” are unique.

Guatapé

Some depict flowers, llamas, and other seemingly random objects. Others relate to the store inside like the loaves of bread pained on a bakery. And others showed pieces of Colombian farming history.

Steep, winding cobblestone streets lined by an actual rainbow of homes. It feels a little like walking around the set of a Disney cartoon.

Best of Guatapé

Although the town is quaint and sleepy there are a few things you should definitely experience during your visit.

  • My favorite plate of Bandeja Paisa was served here in town square. (Bandeja Paisa is a gut-busting Colombian classic of Chorizo, ground beef, rice, beans, avocado, arepas, chicharrones, fried egg, and plantains.)
  • Visit the two local mini-ponies. They are penned just outside the town square. It’s the small things, right?
  • Wake up at dawn. This is the best time to wander the streets. Even few locals will be awake.

More to See in Colombia

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